Blog Posts

Book on a Wing

By Sneed B. Collard III When my 13-year-old son Braden and I arrived at High Island in the spring of 2016, we quivered with anticipation. After two years of birding in our home state of Montana, we had finally decided to venture beyond our borders and attempt a modest ABA […]

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An Informal Guide to Creating Bird-Friendly Habitat

✏️ By Chris Bick, Houston Audubon 2021 Young Professionals Advisory Council I wanted to create an informal guide or informational source to creating a backyard habitat using my experience and my yard dimensions as the basis for the guide. These recommendations can be scaled to fit your yard size and […]

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Beak of the Week – Broad-winged Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus) Family: Accipitridae The Broad-winged Hawk is a small sized raptor with a brown upper body, reddish head, barred undersides, and a black and white banded tail. Broad-winged Hawks are what birders like to call “Buteos” which refers to their genus. Buteos are typically distinguished from the […]

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Houston and Galveston birding beloved beyond the borders of Texas

✏️ By Lauren Miheli, Houston Audubon Membership and Volunteer Manager As you might expect, the majority of Houston Audubon’s members are from… that’s right, Texas. You might be surprised (as we were!) to learn that we have members in not only Texas, but in 21 other states around the country! […]

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Beak of the Week – Pileated Woodpecker

✏️ By Ryan Call, Houston Audubon Young Professionals Advisory Council 2021 Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) Family: Picidae Records show that the Pileated Woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in North America—the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker and the Imperial Woodpecker were larger but are presumed extinct. An unmistakable, crested, red and black, crow-sized bird, […]

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From Prairie to License Plate: Photographing the Eastern Meadowlark

By Alan Murphy, Alan Murphy Photography Every April for the past twenty-five years, I photograph bird migration on the Upper Texas Coast. When I arrive on the coast and drive the back roads looking for birds, the first sounds I always hear is the loud, flutelike song of the Eastern […]

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Beak of the Week – Least Bittern

Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis) Family: Ardeidae The Least Bittern is the smallest North American heron and blends into its marshy habitat exceptionally well. Measuring only about 12-13 inches, these tiny herons have a long neck, with a dark brown to black crown and back blending to warm tan on the […]

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Feathers aren’t Forever

By Ryan Call, Houston Audubon 2021 Young Professionals Advisory Council (YPAC) About this time every summer, we receive questions about ridiculous-looking birds: birds with oddly mismatched feathers, birds without feathers, birds that seem bedraggled or undernourished or sickly-looking. For the most part, these birds are perfectly fine! They’re just in the […]

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Beak of the Week – Downy Woodpecker

✏️ By Ryan Call, Houston Audubon Young Professionals Advisory Council 2021 Downy Woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens) Family: Picidae Perhaps the most common woodpecker in North America, the Downy Woodpecker thrives all across the continent: from the tree line in Alaska and Canada to the southernmost forests of California and Florida (Birds […]

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It’s Time to Turn your Lights Out, Texas!

✏️ By Anna Vallery, Houston Audubon Conservation Specialist, Bird-Friendly Communities Program Manager While you’re still hanging out by the pool and enjoying summer BBQs, many migratory birds are wrapping up their breeding seasons and getting ready to fly south for the winter. Fall migration kicks into gear in mid-August and continues […]

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Beak of the Week – Turkey Vulture

✏️ By Ryan Call, Houston Audubon Young Professionals Advisory Council 2021 Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) Family: Cathartidae A hardy, adaptive bird, the Turkey Vulture thrives in the Houston area and beyond. It’s a bird you can often see high above the terrain, its wings upswept in a shallow dihedral, the […]

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Plastic Free Tips for a Plastic Free July!

✏️ By Anna Vallery, Conservation Specialist, Houston Audubon It is the last week of Plastic Free July, so most participants are now pros at identifying single-use plastic items in their life that can be replaced or avoided. To round-out the month, we wanted to share a few tips that Houston […]

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Beak of the Week – Roseate Spoonbill

By Ryan Call, Houston Audubon Young Professionals Advisory Council 2021 Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) Family: Threskiornithidae Being married to a non-birder, I strive to make birding as easy and as convenient as possible for my family. I’m not always successful, of course—I sometimes return too late from a long day […]

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Beak of the Week – Reddish Egret

By Ryan Call, Houston Audubon Young Professionals Advisory Council 2021 Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) Family: Ardeida Throughout coastal flats, saltmarshes, tidal ponds, and lagoons, the Reddish Egret excitedly forages for prey—primarily fish—accomplishing what many birders call a “drunken dance.” The bird hunts shallow water, lurching back and forth, half-jumping and […]

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Beak of the Week – Great Crested Flycatcher

Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus) Family: Tyrannidae The Great Crested Flycatcher is a large perching bird in the large and diverse family of tyrant flycatchers. This bird is distinguished by its bright yellow belly and under-tail coverts (bottom of tail), dull white throat and namesake head crest. Although not extremely […]

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My Journey to Bird Friendly Backyard Habitat

Chris Bick, Houston Audubon Young Professionals Advisory Council 2021 Three years ago, I wanted to create a vegetable garden consisting of cucumbers, tomatoes, and zucchini. I created a small planting box in the center of my cookie-cutter backyard that was 100% St. Augustine grass. I would spend roughly an hour […]

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Beak of the Week – Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret (Bulbulcus ibis) Family: Ardeidae The stout white Cattle Egret is most often seen in fields rather than shallow water with other herons and egrets. It prefers to follow grazing cattle (hence the name) as well as tractors and mowers, snatching up small lizards and insects that scatter after […]

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Bird-Friendly Beachgoing

We’re already deep into summer activities, especially in this Texas heat! Many of us have flocked to nearby beaches to escape the heat and enjoy the season. With the 4th of July (and another four months of Texas summer) ahead of us, though, we wanted to take an opportunity to […]

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Beak of the Week – Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna) Family: Icteridae The Eastern Meadowlark’s bright song is a familiar sound throughout open grasslands of eastern North America. They are commonly seen singing from fence posts, telephone wires, and shrubs. Eastern Meadowlarks can easily be identified by their brilliant yellow chests and dark v-shaped collar. These colors […]

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Beak of the Week – Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) Family: Troglodytidae Our Beak of the Week is a favorite Houston resident, the Carolina Wren! Male and female Carolina Wrens look alike; both are reddish-brown above and warm buffy-orange below, with a long, slightly downcurved bill, a bold white eyebrow stripe, a rusty cheek, white throat, […]

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Beak of the Week – Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (Nyctanassa violacea) Family: Ardeidae Our Beak of the Week is the official Bird of Houston, the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron! This seemingly hunch-backed bird can be a difficult one to spot. Both species of North American night-herons, yellow-crowned and black-crowned, forage mainly at night and spend most of the day […]

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Beak of the Week – Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) Family: Trochilidae Did you know that Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are able to fly in all 6 directions with wing beats of 53 times per a second? Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are bright emerald or golden-green on the back and crown with gray-white underparts. Males have a brilliant iridescent red […]

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Birds nest on Cattail Island for the first time!

The Texas colonial waterbird counts are underway and Houston Audubon staff are out conducting this important monitoring work. A fantastic surprise in the coast-wide monitoring effort is the first-time use of an island built for just that purpose in Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary. This now three-year-old island was part of […]

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Beak of the Week – Chestnut-sided Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler (Setophaga pensylvanica) Family: Parulidae The Chestnut-sided Warbler migrates through eastern Texas in spring and the boldly patterned male never fails to dazzle onlookers with his bright yellow crown, black line through his eye, black mustache stripe, white breast, and chestnut streaked flanks. The female has a similar pattern but […]

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Beak of the Week – Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) Family: Bombycillidae Flocks of Cedar Waxwings are welcome winter visitors to the Houston suburbs where they feast primarily on berries. The Cedar Waxwing is one of the few North American birds that specializes in eating fruit; their digestive system is especially adapted to rapidly digest berries […]

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YPAC Members on a Mission: Supporting Houston’s Feathered Friends

By Taylor Rhoades, Special Project Chair, YPAC, and Anna Vallery, Conservation Specialist, Houston Audubon It doesn’t take much effort to find advice on how to support birds. In fact, a simple Google search produces hundreds of helpful resources in a matter of seconds. So, if the information is out there, […]

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Beak of the Week – Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler (Setophaga magnolia) Family: Parulidae As migration in High Island continues, birders are seeing increasingly more mid and late-season migrants. Among them is our Beak of the Week, the striking Magnolia Warbler. Unlike Pine Warblers, Magnolia Warblers do not forage and nest predominantly in their namesake tree. Rather, the […]

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Welcome to Javier Salas, Houston Audubon’s New Environmental Educator!

We’re excited to welcome a new team member to the Education Department – Javier Salas! Javier considers himself an artist but holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from The University of Texas at San Antonio. There, he ran cross country and worked as an ecology summer camp counselor and […]

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Congratulations to JD Carballo, our 2020 Exceptional Volunteer

Houston Audubon announced the 2020 Laura Singleton Exceptional Volunteer at a virtual event celebrating our volunteers at the conclusion of National Volunteer Week. Our deserving honoree for 2020 is JD Carballo, volunteer maintenance technician at Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary.  JD has been an active and frequent volunteer at Edith […]

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Beak of the Week – Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) Family: Cardinalidae Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are stocky, medium-sized songbirds with very large conical bills. The breeding plumage of adult males is striking; they have a black hood and back, a bright red chevron that extends from the black throat down the middle of the breast, and the […]

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Every Day is Earth Day for the Birds

Happy Earth Day from all of us at Houston Audubon! Although we think every day should be Earth Day, we’re excited for a chance to celebrate the planet that sustains the people and wildlife that call it home.  There are many easy actions you can take to promote a healthier […]

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Young Wings Take Flight

By Lauren Miheli, Member and Volunteer Manager Here at Houston Audubon we are so appreciative of the younger generations; from Elementary School to College, young people are a big part of our volunteer efforts. The initiative they take in finding ways to help out at our sanctuaries is super inspiring! This […]

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Beak of the Week – Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) Family: Picidae The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is a member of the woodpecker family that winters in the southeastern United States. Similar to other sapsuckers, the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker has white vertical wing patches, an unbroken white stripe from the bill to the belly, and a stout beak. Adult […]

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Working for Woodpeckers

By Sneed B. Collard III On a balmy, pre-covid morning in June 2019, I arrived at the W.G. Jones State Forest at 5:45 a.m. There I was met by an enthusiastic biologist named Donna Work. Why? So that she could teach me about one of the world’s most intriguing birds, […]

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Beak of the Week – Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler (Setophaga fusca) Family: Parulidae The Blackburnian Warbler is a small songbird with a bright orange throat and face with a black crown, broad white wingbars, and a triangular ear patch. Females and juveniles are paler and yellower overall. They have a thin call that increases in speed that […]

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Voices of a Flyway in High Island, TX

I awoke well before dawn on April 6, 2019. A night of fitful, anxious sleep pushed me out of bed. After a year of planning, I was eager to start work at Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary in High Island, Texas. Walking about a quarter of a mile east into the […]

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Beak of the Week – American Kestrel

American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) Family: Falconiformes The American Kestrel is the smallest yet most numerous and colorful of the North American falcons. It was once referred to as the sparrow hawk because of its small size and its occasional sparrow snack. Unlike many raptors, which may prove difficult distinguishing male […]

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Beak of the Week – Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia) Family: Parulidae The Yellow Warbler is a small songbird with medium-length tails and a round head. The bill is relatively large for a warbler species.  Males are a bright yellow with reddish streaks on its underside.  Both males and females have yellow patches on their tail.  […]

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How to Start a Native Container Garden

By Catherine Lee Clarke, Houston Audubon 2021 Young Professionals Advisory Council (YPAC) I live in the southwest Houston neighborhood of Willow Meadows. We have a typical lot for the area, about 9,500 square feet, with about 2,500 square feet of backyard. There was a mature pecan tree along with a […]

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Beak of the Week – Mississippi Kite

Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis) Family: Accipitridae Mississippi Kites arrive in spring from their winter homes deep in South America. A medium-sized hawk, the Mississippi Kite has long, narrow, pointed wings and a long black tail. The back is dark gray while the breast and belly are almost white. The head […]

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Beak of the Week – Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea) Family: Cardinalidae The breeding Scarlet Tanager male is one of the most brilliantly colored birds that you may encounter during migration. In spring and summer, the males are scarlet red with jet black wings and tail. Females and fall immatures are olive-yellow with darker olive wings […]

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Pine Siskins and Salmonellosis – How to Identify and Prevent the Spread

Backyards across the United States have had an unusually high number of small, heavily striped finches, known as Pine Siskins, making a recent appearance. This year’s irruption of Pine Siskins has been one of the largest in recorded history! An irruption typically occurs during periods of food shortage in a […]

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Beak of the Week – Rusty Blackbird

Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus) Family: Icteridae Rusty Blackbirds have been the talk of High Island for the last few weeks, as they are currently being seen in Smith Oaks Sanctuary for the first time. They winter in the Eastern United States and are relatively uncommon in Southern Texas.  These birds […]

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Beak of the Week – White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) Family: Passerellidae The White-crowned Sparrow is a light gray sparrow with a brown back and wings, a long tail, orange, conical bill, and black and white striped cap on the head, making them look a little like badgers. White-crowned Sparrows are very selective about the species […]

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I found a baby bird! Now what?

There are many circumstances in which you could find a baby bird who seems to need help, and a lot of the information out there might not be right for your region, the type of bird you have, or the specific circumstances of the bird you found.  These directions apply […]

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Beak of the Week – Bonaparte’s Gull

Bonaparte’s Gull (Chroicocephalus philadelphia) Family: Laridae This common gull gets its claim to fame by being the only gull species to nest in trees. On their breeding grounds in the boreal forests of Canada, Bonaparte’s Gulls build their nests of sticks, bark, lichen, and moss on a conifer tree. Gulls […]

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Helping my feathered friends during an unexpected winter freeze

Over the past couple of years, I have been learning more about birds and how to help them (involuntarily, as my sister started working at Houston Audubon and became very interested in birds). I have always had a couple of feeders in the backyard, but I started planting native plants, […]

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Beak of the Week – Redhead

Redhead (Aythya americana) Family: Anatidae Much like Beyoncé, this week’s Beak of the Week is so fabulous that it need only be referred to by one name: Redhead. A male Redhead will have a light gray body, with a black rump and breast, and a vibrant rufous head. Female Redhead […]

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Beak of the Week – Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) Family: Anatidae This week’s Beak of the Week is named after its reddish-brown body, although it is perhaps more easily recognized by its striking light blue bill. Ruddy Ducks lay the largest eggs of all waterfowl, proportionately. The ducklings are already well-developed when hatched and need […]

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